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Making modifications to your diet and lifestyle can help naturally optimize levels of human growth hormone to support overall health.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced by your pituitary gland.
Also known as growth hormone (GH), it plays a key role in regulating growth in children. Human Growth Hormone also supports metabolism and improves muscle growth, strength, and lean body mass (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
Low Human Growth Hormone levels may decrease your quality of life, increase your risk of disease, and lead to body fat gain (3Trusted Source).
However, note that it is not recommended to treat age-related changes in body composition or physical performance with growth hormone, as it may increase the risk of neoplastic diseases, such as cancer (2Trusted Source).
If you suspect you may have low levels of growth hormone, a doctor can diagnose growth hormone deficiency using several tests, including the insulin tolerance test, GHRH-arginine stimulation test, or glucagon stimulation test (4Trusted Source).
Though growth hormone deficiency — a condition often caused by genetic disorders and other health conditions — requires treatment from a doctor, making changes to your diet and lifestyle choices as directed by a healthcare professional may be beneficial for maintaining HGH within a normal range (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Here are 10 evidence-based ways to increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels naturally.
The amount of belly fat you carry is directly related to your HGH production (7Trusted Source).
Those with higher levels of belly fat may have impaired HGH production and an increased risk of disease.
In fact, one older study found that having higher amounts of belly fat was linked to lower levels of HGH (8Trusted Source).
Another 2005 study monitored the 24-hour release of HGH and found a large decline in those with more abdominal fat (9Trusted Source).
Excess belly fat is also linked to many chronic conditions. Therefore, losing belly fat may help optimize HGH levels and other aspects of health (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Reducing excess body fat — especially around your belly — may help optimize HGH levels and improve overall health.
Studies show that fasting leads to a major increase in HGH levels.
Interestingly, one recent study in 47 people found that HGH levels increased five-fold during a 24-hour fast (12Trusted Source).
Other older studies have also demonstrated increased HGH secretion after 2 or 5 day fasts (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
However, continuous fasting is not sustainable in the long term. Intermittent fasting is a more popular dietary approach that limits eating to brief time periods.
Multiple methods of intermittent fasting are available. One common approach is a daily 8-hour eating window with a 16-hour fast. Another involves limiting daily calorie intake for 2 days per week (15Trusted Source).
Intermittent fasting can alter HGH levels in two main ways. First, it can help decrease body fat, which directly affects HGH production (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Second, it’ll keep your insulin levels low for most of the day, as insulin is released when you eat. Research suggests that insulin spikes can disrupt your growth hormone signaling (18Trusted Source).
Though shorter 12–16-hour fasts might also be beneficial, there is limited research available, as most studies are focused on the effects of full-day fasts.
Fasting may increase HGH levels, though more research is needed on shorter, 12–16-hour fasts.
When taken alone, arginine may boost HGH (19Trusted Source).
Though some people tend to use amino acids like arginine alongside exercise, several older studies show that exercise may blunt or reduce the response of growth hormone (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
However, one older study observed that taking arginine and lysine — without any exercise —significantly increased levels of this hormone (21Trusted Source).
According to one test-tube study, L-arginine could activate a pathway in the body responsible for the synthesis and secretion of HGH (22Trusted Source).
Another study in 30 active males found that taking 10 grams (g) of arginine after an overnight fast led to a modest increase in HGH levels (23Trusted Source).
However, it’s important to talk to a doctor before adding arginine to your routine, especially if you are taking other medications or have any underlying health conditions. Additionally, note that long-term supplementation with arginine has been linked to adverse effects on health, especially for older adults (24Trusted Source).
Some studies have found that arginine supplements may influence growth hormone production. However, more research is needed.
An increase in insulin may alter the expression of neurons that release HGH (25Trusted Source).
According to one older study in people with obesity, high insulin levels can reduce levels of growth hormone. Because refined carbs and sugar raise insulin levels the most, reducing your intake may help optimize growth hormone levels (18Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Along with directly affecting insulin levels, excess sugar intake is a key factor in weight gain and obesity, which also affect HGH levels (27Trusted Source, 28).
Aim to achieve a balanced diet, as what you eat has a profound effect on your health, hormones, and body composition.
Consuming large amounts of refined carbs and sugar can increase insulin levels, which can alter HGH production. Therefore, aim to eat a balanced diet and limit your intake of refined carbs and added sugar.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid found in the brain, spinal cord, and elsewhere in the body, where it functions as a neurotransmitter and sends signals around your brain (29Trusted Source).
As a well-known calming agent for your brain and central nervous system, there is limited research showing that it could also ease stress and promote sleep (30Trusted Source).
Interestingly, it may also help increase your HGH levels. In fact, one 2008 study found that taking a GABA supplement led to a 400% increase in HGH at rest and a 200% increase following exercise (31Trusted Source).
Limited research suggests that GABA may also help improve sleep. This could potentially increase HGH levels, as nighttime growth hormone release is linked to sleep quality (2Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 32).
However, more research is needed on the long-term effects of GABA on growth hormone levels.
Additionally, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking GABA to minimize adverse side effects and prevent interactions with other medications (33Trusted Source).
One study found that GABA supplements could increase HGH production. Limited research also suggests that it could improve sleep quality, which could potentially increase HGH levels. However, more research is needed.
Exercise can increase HGH levels. The extent of this increase depends on the type and intensity of exercise, along with your cardiorespiratory fitness level (34Trusted Source).
In particular, high intensity exercise has been shown to increase levels of HGH in several studies. However, other forms, such as moderate intensity exercise, may also be beneficial (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
More research is needed to determine whether regular exercise can increase daily HGH levels (36Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, over the long-term, exercise may optimize your hormone function and decrease body fat, both of which will benefit your HGH levels.
Some studies have found that high intensity exercise can increase HGH levels. However, other types of exercise, including moderate intensity exercise, can also be beneficial.
Some sports supplements can enhance performance and temporarily boost your HGH levels (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source).
One older study demonstrated that a pre-workout sports drink significantly increased growth hormone levels immediately after exercising and up to 15 minutes post-workout (38Trusted Source).
Though more recent research is needed, another study found that consuming a carb-containing protein shake could boost HGH levels around workouts (39Trusted Source).
However, if a casein or whey protein supplement is taken immediately before strength exercise, it may have the opposite effect (40Trusted Source).
In fact, one 2005 study found that drinking a beverage containing 25 g of casein or whey protein 30 minutes before strength exercise reduced levels of human growth hormone and testosterone, compared with a non-caloric placebo (40Trusted Source).
Be sure to consult with a healthcare professional before taking sports drinks or other supplements and use only as directed.
While more research is needed, some studies have found that sports drinks or protein-carbohydrate supplements could increase short-term growth hormone spikes during or after a workout.
HGH is released in pulses when you sleep. These pulses are based on your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm (41Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that inadequate sleep can reduce the amount of HGH your body produces (42Trusted Source).
For this reason, getting an adequate amount of deep sleep is one of the best strategies to enhance your long-term HGH production.
Here are a few simple strategies to help optimize your sleep (43Trusted Source):
Avoid blue light exposure before bedtime.
Read a book in the evening.
Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature.
Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
Focus on optimizing sleep quality to support HGH production. Most adults should also aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night.
Melatonin is a hormone that plays an important role in sleep and blood pressure regulation (44Trusted Source).
Melatonin supplements have become a popular supplement that can increase the quality and duration of your sleep (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
Some older research has shown that a melatonin supplement can enhance HGH production. However, more research is needed to determine whether melatonin provides any additional benefit beyond that provided by sleep. Additionally, one study found no significant effect of melatonin on HGH levels (47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
Melatonin is fairly safe for short-term use and non-toxic. Still, it can cause some side effects and may interact with certain medications. Additionally, there is limited information on its long-term safety, so it’s important to check with a healthcare professional before taking it (50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Melatonin supplements can enhance sleep, which may increase your body’s natural HGH production.
Several other supplements may enhance human growth hormone production, including:
Glutamine: One older study found that a 2-g dose of glutamine could temporarily increase Human Growth Hormone levels by up to 78% (53Trusted Source).
Creatine: According to one study in sprinters and long-distance runners, creatine supplementation significantly increased HGH levels after 6 weeks (54Trusted Source).
Ornithine: One 2010 study gave participants ornithine 30 minutes after exercise and found a greater peak in HGH levels (55).
More recent, high quality research is needed to understand the effectiveness of these supplements.
Furthermore, while these supplements may increase your HGH levels, studies indicate that their effects are only temporary.
Keep in mind that it’s best to talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional before adding any natural supplements to your routine.
Several natural supplements may increase the production of HGH. However, more high quality research is needed to understand whether these supplements cause a long-term increase in HGH or are more effective than other approaches, such as exercise or sleep.
As with other key hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, having healthy levels of growth hormone is important.
HGH helps your body with metabolism and other vital functions.
Exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, following a nutritious diet, and maintaining a moderate body weight may be beneficial for maintaining HGH levels and promoting overall health.
Certain supplements may also be beneficial, but should only be taken as directed by a healthcare professional.